The next evolution of the Internet is emerging and, while expected to develop slowly in South Africa, the so-called metaverse could provide business with a new avenue of growth.
The metaverse is commonly described as shared, virtual three-dimensional (3D) worlds, representing the convergence of the physical and digital realms, and combining commerce and blockchain and cryptotechnology with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), along with artificial intelligence and other emerging advanced technologies.
It is the next technological leap in cyberspace, in how advanced technology is engaged and experienced by companies and individuals, increasingly through VR and AR, explains BCX Converged Communications managing executive Prashil Gareeb, adding that the term ‘metaverse’ was first used in author Neal Stephenson’s 1992 book, Snow Crash, to explain a next-generation virtual-reality-based Internet.
Gareeb believes this evolution holds untold potential for businesses, from virtual experiences, such as digital face-to-face learning and corporate training, to retail, which will be revolutionised, and the companies that get this right will be the next disruptors.
From the introduction of new technologies, such as AR and VR, into a business and its operations, and integrating them into current systems, companies need to start figuring out how to service clients as part of the metaverse.
As businesses become more reliant on the metaverse, they will need to partner with technology solutions companies which can bring together digital innovation, private fifth-generation (5G) networks, high-speed broadband, customer centricity and many other requirements under a single offering, Gareeb adds.
“Using the capabilities we have always had, but with more advanced technologies, BCX has enabled itself to become part of that integration,” he says.
BCX’s EXA division is undertaking various forms of digital product development, including linking enterprise use of AR and VR to the Digital Twin concept, while telecommunications services provider Telkom’s fibre and pre-5G network footprint already enables enterprises in sectors such as mines and healthcare to consider integrating VR and AR into daily operations. This will enable time savings in the supply chain and the monitoring of assets for security and health, besides others.
Gareeb highlights that hospitals and clinics can use their collaboration tools for virtual contact centres, to track patients and doctors and run virtual training, while mines and industrial clients, including those in the petroleum, logistics and manufacturing sectors, can connect their campuses, where information processed on the edge is shared to the cloud for storage, and real-time instructions can be autonomously shared for vehicle management or security alerts.
The applications are endless, from fitness sessions, educational platforms and virtual doctors – and even immersive one-on-one private psychology therapy sessions – to entertainment, exclusive content provision and workplace meeting places, or rooms, for employees, says Africarare cofounder and CEO Mic Mann.
“The convergence with blockchain technology and nonfungible tokens has allowed for true digital ownership and we are now at this inflection point where you can own something in digital format, where you can build and create economies and use it to thrive, delivering services or creating digital products,” he says.
“A lot of the opportunity [for the metaverse] lies in the challenges currently facing businesses and society at large. The possibilities for meaningful metaverse experiences are almost endless for the creation and monetisation of whatever digital goods and services translate into the world of the metaverse,” says Mann.
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